How have High Schools Failed our Kids

I have been lucky.  I have taught the elite in private schools for the last twelve years.  My students all speak English, they are all able to problem solve and they are all bright young people.  So that begs the question of why a veteran teacher from such a background would want to write an article about the ways that high school students fail to prepare students for college.  I can say with great certainty that even at the most elite of schools, there are some very worrisome traits that all high school teachers across the country are starting to see.  We watch in awe as students today enter their college years very naive about worldly issues, the ability to advocate for themselves, the ability to properly communicate for themselves and the ability to problem solve in practical ways.

Let’s start with the one that irks me the most.  The inability to problem solve.  In the era of the “helicopter parent” we are seeing the children of such parents unable to think for themselves.  The students are not able to think through a problem because a parent has always been there to tell them what to do, how to do it and sometimes do it for them.  Helicopter parenting has also led a generation of kids who do not want to be outgoing for themselves on confrontational matters.  They are unable to have an adult conversation with a teacher about why they are dissatisfied with their learning experience.  Their reliance on their parents is frightening.  As educators we need to work past this and TEACH students to be able to problem solve and be advocates for themselves in a manner that is respectable.  High schools have to spend less time on the parental end and more time teaching their students how to manage their own affairs.

The communication of these students with teachers and in the written word is deplorable.  As high schools must spend more and more time teaching basic skills to proficiency exams, there are parts of the curriculum that have all but disappeared.  Handwriting is probably the most common skill that has literally deteriorated beyond the ability to restore it to acceptable levels.  Students use technology and devices so often that their handwriting looks more like a chicken that dipped his feet in ink and ran across the page!  It is not legible and unreadable.  This leads me to the next major issue in communication…grammar!  Students today use abbreviations like they are texting and use inappropriate language in their writing.  High schools should encourage the technology and typing, but we still have to hand-write some things in life!

The last area high schools have failed students is in organization.  High schools throw work at students at staggering levels.  However, outside of a freshman orientation, students are not taught how to keep in all together.  They lack the ability to manage long- and short-term assignments and can not ascertain how to communicate this struggle to their teachers.